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From Boyhood Fame to Grand Slam, Tiger Woods: Fairway Legend

Aired June 17, 2001 - 8:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: He's a hard-driving champion who's tearing up the links.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I enjoy competing. I enjoy getting out there, and going toe to toe with the best players in the world.


ANNOUNCER: A prodigy. Raised to be a superstar.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so important for him to his family, his superiority at a very young age.


ANNOUNCER: And from a young age, forced to suffer the sting of racism.


WOODS: To be judged just because of my skin, I found that very difficult at first.


ANNOUNCER: Today, his talent places him dead-center in the celebrity spotlight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no such thing as utopia, and it's the champions that can handle it well.


ANNOUNCER: From precocious putter to fairway legend. Tiger Woods.

His story now in PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. DARYN KAGAN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Daryn Kagan.

In the sport of golf, your game is determined by precision, strength, and guts. At age 25, Tiger Woods has all three -- and then some. He hit the pro tour five years ago. And since then, golf has never been so cool.

And the TV ratings have never been so hot: they more than double when Woods is in contention. As the 2001 golf season gets into full swing, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the young man who makes golf and his success look effortless.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An average man looks at Tiger and says, gee, all he does is play golf and make this money.

That's not true. It took years and years of training and sacrifice.

TIM ROSAFORTE, TIGER WOODS BIOGRAPHER: This kid has done things over the course of the last five years no one has ever done in golf before.

And to a certain extent, no one has done in sports before.

KAGAN (voice-over): Tiger Woods would seem to have the world by the tail. Two time Masters champion, British Open winner, four consecutive major tournament victories.

An unmatched success on the greens and in the green. Commercial endorsements brought him $54 million last year.

The road to success and history began modestly enough, in the suburban neighborhood of Cypress, California, 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

For Eldrick Tiger Woods, on December 30, 1975.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was just part of a Southern California mix at the time. Asian, black, white, everything. Certainly not an inner city urban kid but certainly not an upper class kid either.

KAGAN: Tiger's bloodline is as diverse as his California neighborhood.

His father is part black, part Native American, and part Chinese. His mother: a blend of Thai and Caucasian.

The nickname Tiger comes from a Vietnamese friend of Earl Woods who saved Woods life in the war.

EARL WOODS, FATHER: He was very, very good in combat, so much so I nicknamed him Tiger. When Vietnam fell, I didn't know whether he got out. I lost touch with him. So I said, if I have another child, I'll nickname him Tiger. If hit been a girl, she would have been Tiger, too.

KAGAN: Earl Woods was a Green Beret stationed in Thailand. It was there that he met Tina Punsoi (ph); they married and moved to California where Tiger was born.

Just after Tiger could walk, he was introduced to the game of golf.

QUESTION: How early did you know he had a special talent?

E. WOODS: When he was ten months old. He had been in the garage watching me hit balls since he was six months old. He picked up a ball and put it down and waggled and looked at the target and waggled again, just like I did. Hit the ball into the net the first time.

KAGAN: By the time he was two years old, Tiger shot an astonishing 48 on a nine-hole golf course.

Scoring his first taste of early fame.

On the Mike Douglas Show in 1978, Tiger showed off his swing and sense of humor to a national audience.

But just as Tiger's skills as a golfer were gaining media attention a flashpoint: at age four, he was turned away from a local golf course. He says because of the color of his skin.

T. WOODS: Any time you go through a negative experience like that, it does leave a lasting mark, and I have gone through my share. I haven't gone through as the people -- the generation before me, but nonetheless, I guess a bad experience is a bad experience.

QUESTION: How do you explain that to a child?

E. WOODS: You tell him what it is and be proud of who he is and not let anyone define who he is.

T. WOODS: To be judged just because of the pigmentation of my skin, I found that very difficult. At first, because I didn't understand it. Then as I grew up and started to understand it and talked to my father about it more, yeah, I understand and coped with it.

KAGAN: In 1982 at the age of seven, Tiger started his golf education in earnest. Taught by his father and disciplined by his mother.

T. WOODS: My mom was tough one. He was more lenient. My mom was obviously -- she is from Asian heritage, and that culture is a lot different than it is here.

KAGAN: By his 15th birthday, Tiger had amassed 6 Jr. tournament victory.

The following year, he qualified to play in his first professional tournament as an amateur. Despite his growing celebrity, he tried to blend in with his classmates at Western High School.

JIM TOZZLE, ENGLISH TEACHER: He interacted, he joked around, he got to class on time, obeyed the rules.

CORINA DURREGO, CHEMISTRY TEACHER: He didn't get an A in chemistry. He got a B in both semesters, but he's, considering how much school he missed, he was a very smart child.

KAGAN: After graduating high school, Woods headed north on a golf scholarship to Stanford University.

E. WOODS: The only thing better than a good person is an educated good person. So I wanted him to get his education.

KAGAN: As a freshmen, he hit the books, and he grew close with his college teammates. But what would his rookie year be without an initiation?

NOTAH BEGAY, STANFORD TEAMMATE: The first day at practice I told him, with a serious look, dead in the eye, and I said, you are going to be the strongest freshmen in the top ten, maybe in the country. He said, thanks, I said, not because of your golf because you are going to carry our bags when we go on road trips. And he looked at me and said, are you serious? I said, you bet I'm serious. And we didn't tip him either.

KAGAN: When the story of Tiger Woods continues, a decision that will impact Tiger's life and the entire world of golf.


KAGAN: Coming up, Tiger Woods steps up his game. But first, we'll catch you up with this week's celebrity news with "passages."



KAGAN: August 28, 1996, after two years at Stanford, Tiger Woods announced his decision to turn pro.

T. WOODS: ...a lot easier than the average amateur entering professional golf, because of opportunities I have had in the past.

ROSAFORTE: You could see we were about to and were experiencing something that was unique and different, not only from the standpoint of what was doing socially to the game, but what this young man could do competitively and as an athlete.

KAGAN: He was no stranger to world-class competition. Woods had already played in 6 national tournaments as an amateur, but at age 20, the rookie was eager to focus solely on his game.

T. WOODS: It's hard to get a rhythm and a flow, but if I get a chance to compete on a weekly basis, I'd feel my game will improve a lot. And my finishes will get better.

KAGAN: They did.

A week later, Woods nearly cracked the top ten, coming in 11th at the Canadian Open. The following week, he placed 5th at the Quad City Classic, and finished 3rd a week later at the BC Open.

His early success attracted multimillion dollar endorsement deals with Nike and Titlest.

E. WOODS: If you look at Tiger's endorsement portfolio, you'll find that he's not on every little cracker or soup; he is world-class.

KAGAN: The boy with the golden swing was hot commercially, but some players out on tour noted he had yet to win a professional title. Many resented the hype.

ROSAFORTE: It's funny how a player will rip media and they don't want to deal with the media and then here was this young player coming out and getting all the media, and now they were jealous. Because they were getting all they wanted.

KAGAN: In 1997, Tiger crushed any doubts about his ability, proving he was the real deal at the 63rd Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

GARY PLAYER, THREE-TIME MASTERS WINNER: He arrived at Augusta and he's focused to try to win this major championship and people are coming at every angle, sign this, do that, it comes at you like a tidal wave.

KAGAN: The 21-year-old rallied and took his place in history as the youngest Masters winner ever.

E. WOODS: When he won the Masters, I told him what he had done. He couldn't believe it.

QUESTION: Was that because of his youth or because it was just the beginning of his celebrity?

E. WOODS: Youth. Youth.

Tiger had always been a celebrity since he was 2 years old.

KAGAN: But he was still vulnerable.

As Woods was wrapping up his Masters victory, Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller had this to say about the young champion.

FUZZY ZOELLER: You know what you guys do when he gets in here? Pat him back, say congratulations, enjoy it, and tell them not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it...or collared greens, or whatever the hell they serve.

KAGAN: The words caused an uproar in the golf world, in a sport known for its civility.

He denied the remark was racist; after a week, Woods felt he need to confront Zoeller.

T. WOODS: I found out some things I needed to know, let him know how I felt. Hopefully, I won't have situations like that ever again, that's highly unlikely. But I know one thing remains -- the stable, is the fact I love to play golf.

KAGAN: But would that love be enough? In 1998, Woods' score card hinted of a slump, with just one tour victory. The media and golf fans wondered: had Tiger lost his bite?

People wondered if this kid was going to burn out. I don't worry about that. I was worried about a physical burnout, but now with the weight-training program he's been on, he will be healthy.

KAGAN: But 1999 was not about winning for Tiger, it was about reworking his game and taking it to a whole new level.

PLAYER: You see, he has what I call an unusual body. A body that works in great speed. You can see when hits ball watch his hands. At such an incredible speed.

KAGAN: By November, he was the first golfer in a quarter century to win eight PGA events in a single season, including the PGA Championship, taking home more than $6 million in prize money.

In 2000, he devoured the competition at the U.S. Open and the 140th British Open.

He also clinched the PGA Championship for the second year in a row. But 2001 may go down as the year that Tiger roared. In April, he slid on the Green Jacket yet again, his second Masters victory.

QUESTION: He cried after he made that last putt, and he put his hat over his face.

E. WOODS: That's because, for the first time and many tournaments he realized the significance of what he had done.

KAGAN: A grand slam, according to Woods.

T. WOODS: I'm going to put my jacket, my U.S. Open trophy, my cart jug, my PGA Championship trophy at the same table. I don't know anyone who owns any one of those concurrently right now.

KAGAN: When the story of Tiger Woods continues, the 25-year old pays a price for his fame.

PLAYER: There is no such thing as utopia. One has got to adjust and really handle this, and it's the champions that can handle it well.


KAGAN: Coming up, Tiger Woods faces the downside of celebrity.


T. WOODS: Sometimes I will start thinking, I have had a pretty successful career but to sit back and say, wow, I have had a fantastic career, if it ended right now, it would be great. I don't want it to end, because I enjoy competing.

KAGAN: Tiger Woods has been on a mission since childhood to be the best in golf. Now age 25, he leads the career money list, $25 million and growing.

His scoring average: the lowest on the tour at 68.

Number one in world rankings.

He's always been respectful of the game's history and its tradition. Mindful of the legends that triumphed before him. Men like Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player.

PLAYER: When I played at the British Open last year, I arrived at St. Andrews, which is right on the golf course hotel, opened up the curtains and Tiger Woods was going down the 17th hole. I had lunch, practiced, and went and played, he was playing behind me. I went to dinner that night, opened up the curtains again, looks right out onto the golf course and there Tiger Woods was going out on his own by himself.

KAGAN: His phenomenal success over the years has also prompted Madison Avenue to rub his hands with dollar signs in mind.

Last year alone Tiger Woods earned an estimated $54 million in endorsements. Surpassing basketball star Michael Jordan's estimated $45 million during his prime seasons.

With all achievements and all that money, Tiger has yet to fulfill a promise he has with his father.

QUESTION: Why do you have that deal with him?

E. WOODS: Completion. I told him, you will get your diploma and he promised me he would. You don't start a journey, unless you complete it.

KAGAN: Earl Woods' 25 year relationship with his son has involved constant protection, detailed preparation, and the hardest of all, letting go.

E. WOODS: Now, I can back off comfortably, and allow him to live his own life. Make his own decisions. And that's a tough call for a lot of parents. Because they don't want the kid to leave. I prepared Tiger to leave.

KAGAN: But can anyone be truly prepared for all this attention and all these expectations?

Tiger's fame has come at a price. The lack of a private life. Woods recently split with his long-time girlfriend, law student Joanna Jagoda. The two had met on a blind date back in 1998.

ROSAFORTE: I wouldn't want to be Tiger Woods. I wouldn't want to have the type of fame he has, where he can't go out to a restaurant where he has to make arrangements to go in through a back door, to go eat or go to a movie, or whatever he wants to do socially.

KAGAN: However, there is some media attention that Tiger Woods certainly welcomes.

T. WOODS: Working with kids, put a smile on their face.

KAGAN: That's when it comes to his foundation. Last year, the Tiger Woods Foundation donated more than $280,000 to various charities worldwide. He also hosts four golf clinics each year, teaching under- privileged children about the game of golf.

T. WOODS: I want our sport to reflect how America is, which is any kind of diversity you can imagine. Here in the United States. That's how I want our sport to look like. If they so choose to play, it should not be denied an access that experience.

PLAYER: You must remember Tiger has a great responsibility on his shoulder, more than any player in the world by a million miles. You know, we have a hero.

ROSAFORTE: You have to wonder, what is in the stars for this guy? What will he be doing when he is 40 years old? I just hope I'm around to see.


KAGAN: You may see another Woods up on the leader board soon. It belongs to Tiger's niece Cheyenne. She's already racked up 25 wins in her young career, and she's just 10 years old. For more on Tiger Woods, please check out our web site. It's

For all of us here at PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Daryn Kagan. Thank you for watching.



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